Kingsport City Schools go “red for ed” in opposition to voucher proposal

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Teachers, faculty and staff flushed Kingsport City Schools in a wash of red Friday to make a statement. 

John Sevier Middle School Principal Holly Flora said Kingsport’s educators banded together to take a stand for public education and to make a statement against Gov. Bill Lee’s proposed Education Savings Account bill, which is moving through the General Assembly.

“We believe public education is the great equalizer, public schools provide a quality education for all students, for students of all abilities and all socio-economic backgrounds,” Flora said.

The proposal would earmark $25 million this year for students in districts with failing schools. Parents of students in low-performing school districts could receive $7,300 per year from a special account to pay for them to attend a school outside of the district. 

While the proposal wouldn’t immediately affect our region for a while, Flora said she thinks it’s important to take action now. 

Flora and other critics of the proposal cite concerns that it will funnel money away from public schools and into private ones. 

“We oppose vouchers because we believe it will lower the quality of education for all students and will diminish the capacity of the entire education system,” she said. “School vouchers will create opportunities to take public dollars and give (them) to private, unaccountable schools.”

Lee, who has refrained from using the word “voucher” to describe the legislation, described the Education Savings Account in his State of the State address as a choice for students in their parents. 

“I know there’s concern that programs like this will take money away from public schools, but my ESA plan will invest at least $25 million new dollars in public schools in the first year to fill the gap when a student transfers to another school,” he said in the address. 

The legislation will be considered by the Finance Ways, and Means Committee next week. 

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